New release: Battles – Gloss Drop

Battles – Gloss Drop
Warp Records (2011)

I wanted to hate this record. Isn’t that ridiculous? Battles’ early eps were overhyped and lifeless, according to this here unqualified blogger, but they gained a member and their debut full length Mirrored turned out to be an awe inspiring disco-Einstein romp. I fell in love with Battles even more after witnessing them recreate the record’s complexities live.

Then they lost a member and I thought it was all over. My suspicions seemed justified when I heard Ice Cream, the sugary first single released after their return as a three piece. But I became intrigued enough to give the album a crack after I saw the single’s hilarious film clip. Now  I cant stop listening to it.

Gloss Drop might not carry the mystery and intrigue of Battles’ earlier works but it’s a whole lot more fun. It takes the bounce of what’s become their signature song, Atlas and cranks the dial up to 11. This is a calypso orgy bastardised by Crunk vibes and heavy metal virtuosity. What this means is that I have no real idea how to describe Gloss Drop so I’ll just improvise. Its flamboyant. Borderline arrogant in its complexity. It’s almost classical in the number of layers that make up each track.

Gloss Drop is John Stanier’s record; his dexterous drum skills provide much of the album’s personality, its light and shade. Take Africastle for example, where a quarter of the way in a drum roll ends not in a cymbal crash but a bum note plonked on a piano; or when Stanier purposely drops out of rhythm and then slowly slips back into time during Futura‘s breakdown. The guy is a drum machine, literally.

Gloss Drop is a happier record than the band’s previous efforts but that doesn’t make it any less engaging or credible. There’s still no telling what’s man and what’s programmed, besides those incredible drums which are definitely man. Battles still sound like hybrid of every post-something band of the last 30 years (does that make them a future-something band?) and as far as I’m concerned it proves that Mirrored wasn’t an anomaly. Thumbs up.

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